More local and expat female doctors are joining Oman’s healthcare sector, according to a study published by a team from Oman’s Ministry of Health.
Led by Dr Nazar Mohamed Elfaki, Advisor, Health Systems & Human Resource Planning at the Ministry of Health, the study revealed that 41 per cent of all doctors working in hospitals, clinics, and other health centres across Oman were female, compared with just 27 per cent in 1990.
According to the Annual Health Report, the number of female doctors rose from 2,053 in 2012 to 2,403 in 2016. The number of male doctors rose from 2,904 in 2012 to 3,472 in 2016.
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“It has been observed over the past decades and has intensified over the past years that there are consistent trends of increased participation of females in the medical profession in the Sultanate,” said Elfaki, in an exclusive interview with Times of Oman.
"The number of women doctors increased four per cent from 1990 to 2000 and eight per cent from 2000 to 2010. The proportion of specialist women doctors reached 31.6 per cent in 2016 and 31 per cent in 2015 compared to 21 per cent in 1990,” added Elfaki,
He also that there were also gender variations among specialties. “The proportion of women general practitioners reached 47.2 per cent in 2016 and 50 per cent in 2015 compared to 30 per cent in 1990, showing an increase of four per cent every five years,” added Elfaki, who realised the change in the pattern while collecting data for the Synopsis of Strategic Studies for the Health Vision 2050, Oman’s national long-term healthcare plan.
“It was the number of women doctors that triggered me to take up this subject as my next research that aimed at studying the trend of feminisation among medical doctors’ workforce in the Sultanate and their distribution at workplaces, according to their gender among the different specialities.”
In this regard, the Sultan Qaboos University had adopted a quota system for medical students so that both men and women got an equal number of seats, he said.
According to the Annual Health Report published by the Ministry of Health, the number of women doctors could be seen increasing from 2,053 in 2012 to 2,403 in 2016, whereas the number of male doctors went up from 2,904 in 2012 to 3,472 in 2016.
“During the research conducted by my team and I, the findings regarding the medical students at Sultan Qaboos University showed a higher number of women, 64 per cent in 2015, compared to 54 per cent in 2009,” he revealed. “A similar trend was observed regarding postgraduates, as 61.5 per cent of the graduated residents were women.”
The study showed that according to the data given by the Oman Medical Speciality Board, out of 20 specialties, eight are dominated by women doctors in Oman. Adding to that, women now comprised a majority or near majority of medical students.
“The feminisation phenomenon in Oman is increasing and requires more attention in order to assess the health system readiness of meeting the needs of and accommodating women as the main care providers,” said Elfaki. “The trend is expected to have important consequences on future planning, given that women doctors differ from men in how they participate in the workforce. It may also potentially contribute to a shortage in supply due to difference in preferences and consequently affect the skill-mix and productivity, but the cultural, social context and dimensions need to be explored and feasible options provided for better planning.”
Prakerthi Panikar, Head of Department for Education and Professional Development at Caledonian College, was glad to see so many women enter the workforce. “I think it is high time there was more women representation. Unfortunately, medicine and engineering are two areas, which are still male-dominated, and the former causes patients to sometimes display discomfort. When it comes to women patients, they prefer to have women doctors looking at them, because then they can openly discuss their issues.
Not just about gender
“It’s not just about the gender, but they bring an element of sensitivity and the other side of the world to the workplace. Men can think of this job as just something that has to be done, but women professionals bring aesthetics, emotions and softness, as well as deeper thinking and a fresh perspective to work.”
Asha Selvaraj of the Oman Dental College said: “In our foundation year here, out of 67 students, only four are boys. Women students are a lot more curious as compared to their male counterparts; they are extremely hardworking and very committed to what they do. As it is with any other country, there is huge prestige and honour in having a doctor in the family, and the women are extremely clear about their goals.”
Residents and citizens in the nation had similar views.
“I have three children, and all of them are girls, and all of them have chosen to work in the medical sector,” said Muna, an Omani national. “One of them already works in a hospital, and two of them are in medical school. One of them is still studying, but the other is completing her internship shortly and will then look for a job. Being a doctor is a very humbling job, because this is our country, and we are the ones who will have to build it. Good health is very important for success, and I am proud that all my daughters feel that way.”
Sophia, an expat who is currently studying pharmacology, added: “Everyone thinks there is a lot of prestige associated with this field, but in reality, there is a lot of responsibility as well. I think girls are more caring than boys when it comes to this, and I am glad to do my part.”
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